The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Thomas Nast, 1840-1902

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1840.09.27
Place of Birth: Landau
Date of Death: 1902.12.07
Place of Death: Guayaquil, Ecuador


Thomas Nast was a painter and cartoonist. His father was a Bavarian musician.


Nast studied with the German history painter Theodore Kaufmann and at the National Academy of Design in New York. He contributed political cartoons to papers such as Leslie's Illustrated Weekly Magazine (1855-8), New York Illustrated News, Illustrated London News and Harper's Weekly (1862-86). His Civil War drawings were propagandist against the South. Abraham Lincoln apparently called him 'the Union's best recruiting sergeant'.

In maturity Nast became increasingly interested in painting and book illustration which affected the directness of style of his cartoons, which were accompanied by short satirical captions. The caricatures in Punch and those of John Tenniel were inspirational. After 1865 he made use of photography. He was extremely influential and helped to shape such popular American images as Santa Claus, Uncle Sam and Columbia. He was particularly well known for his satirical attacks on the 'Tweed Ring', a group of corrupt politicians in New York, from 1869 to 1871. In 1890 he published Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race.


Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Keller, M., The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast, New York, 1968; Bryant, Edward, 'Thomas Nast', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 8 December 2003).